Incredible India@60, a four-day celebration commemorating the 60th anniversary of Independence of the world's largest democracy, kicked off in New York, US, Sunday, September 23.

The event, organized jointly by the industry lobby Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Ministry of Tourism, will focus on strengthening business, diplomacy and cultural ties between the two nations.

According to Nandan Nilekani, co-chairman of Indian IT bellwether, Infosys Technologies, the $10 million campaign, whose focus is to generate awareness about the changing face of India, will be "looking at creating a presence, a space for India."

"The idea is to have four days of high impact on business, diplomacy and culture," Nilekani, who is the chairman of the Incredible India@60 organizing body, explained.

Nilekani added that over the past 27 years that he had been dealing with the US, he had never seen "this kind of a huge interest in India, so this is the right time to undertake such an exercise."

"The argument always was that democracy is a luxury for a poor country like India... that argument has now been blown out. Even 15-20 years ago Indian companies were being asked 'who are you,' but today we find a big sea change," Nilekani said.

"India now gets far more visibility and impact in the US," where not only the success of Indian entrepreneurs was being noted, but also the potential of the growing Indian consumer market, he said.

"This is a major initiative. We intend to leave a very strong impression of India," said Sunil Mittal, president, CII and chairman and group CEO, Bharti Enterprises. Mittal's group company Bharti Airtel is the largest mobile services provider in the private sector in India.

The event, Mittal said, will witness the participation of the "the creamy layer of US companies" including Indra Nooyi, chairperson and CEO, PepsiCo; Charles Kaye, co-president, Warburg Pincus; John Chambers, chairman and CEO, Cisco Systems; and L. Brooks Entwistle, MD and CEO, Goldman Sachs (India).

According to sources close to the development, eight other Indian ministries and eight overseas partners including universities of Columbia, Harvard and Yale, NYSE and Business Roundtable will also take part in the event.

Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies with $4.5 trillion in annual revenues and more than 10 million employees.

Singapore foreign minister George Yeo; Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorin; and Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico will also take part in the celebrations, the sources said.

On Monday, India's leading business salt to software conglomerate Tata group's chairman Ratan Tata will preside over a meeting of the Indo-US CEO Council to be held in New York, the sources added.

Mittal said that through the event, India would sell stories of growth and success and woo investors and tourists. "This country [the United States] works on signals," Mittal said. "Signals generate momentum here. And this event will generate positive signaling that the Indian economy is growing at an annual 8-9 percent and we have planned a series of exercises in various fields that will leave a very strong impression of India as a confident nation that is ready to engage with the world."

"Early success stories have started coming out of India. Once these stories come out, more investments will follow," Mittal explained.

Sessions like "Investing in India" and "India's social building blocks," presided by speakers like India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee; Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi; and internationally renowned telecom inventor, technocrat and a social visionary Sam Pitroda are expected to be a huge draw.

And, for the connoisseurs of art and culture, the event promises a repertoire of Indian music, including performances by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Colonial Cousins and Remo; dance recitals by performers from across India; Bollywood-inspired shows led by Saroj Khan; food festivals, and fashion shows by Indian designers like Ritu Kumar and Wendell Rodrigues.

The organizers of the event have already launched an advertising blitz in New York with numerous hoardings, ads on buses and a giant display on the Nasdaq semi-circle facade in Times Square creating awareness of "Incredible India."

"India generally evokes a kind of quizzical interest; but this time things are different," Mittal said. "This is not the regular trade show kind of event that other countries organize. It's a lot more than that."

"In the past, India was always trying not to lose," Mittal continued. "Now, we're telling the world India is here to win."

"This is an endeavor to create awareness and build a brand of vibrant India," Mittal said, adding that private-public joint campaigns like this will help the nation to grow.

"The scale of the campaign is huge and the message simple - experience India," Nilekani said, adding, "We're trying to change the mindset here."

"India has come of age and today is the fastest growing free market economy. It has a 9.4 per cent GDP growth, $475 million worth investments in infrastructure, over 500 million young people driving the economy and the fastest growing telecom market in the world," he said.

The campaign in New York is a "carry forward" from the initiatives that began in Davos in 2006 and will continue to the subsequent year's meet in January 2007, sources said.

The event, which will conclude on Wednesday, has been timed to coincide with a session of the UN General Assembly in New York this week. The "unique collaborative effort" of business and government will comprise of 41 events, 13 conferences and panel discussion, nine cultural programs, and several dinners and receptions spread over four days.